ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Late July is here, and in about a month, children will be headed back to the classroom to start a new school year.
Like everything else, the price of school supplies has risen, and the Liberal Area Coalition for Families is helping relieve some of that financial burden this week.
During enrollment for USD No. 480, the coalition will be handing out backpacks full of supplies, and LACF’s Julie Foster said this is part of an effort to help families with the expense of school supplies.
“The beginning of the school year, as many of us know, prices are extremely high all around with fuel, food, gas, and now more than ever, I feel these backpacks are important,” she said. “Families are really struggling and having a hard time.”
Foster said the cost of school supplies per child can range anywhere from $70 to $120 from preschool through high school.
“I have a fifth grader, and his supplies were a full $110,” she said. “I have yet to look at what the high school is per grade, but if it’s $110 for fifth grade, you can imagine what high school would be.”
This is the fourth year LACF will be distributing backpacks, and unlike past years, Foster said rather than signing up for a backpack and coming back to get them later, families can receive the backpack onsite.
“It’s going to eliminate one step for families,” she said. “Families may need a ride to enrollment. They may have to take off work to go to enrollment. If we set a different date, they may add another barrier for them. We want to decrease barriers and make it as easy as possible.”
USD 480 enrollment will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Seward County Activity Center for children preschool through eighth grade. Liberal High School enrollment will take place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, all at LHS’ main campus.
Foster said when families are picking up backpacks, coalition officials will simply need some basic information before the transaction is complete.
“There’s really not any list of requirements or eligibility checks besides one backpack per child,” she said.
Foster said the supplies in the backpack is based on a list provided by the school district.
“It doesn’t provide every single item,” she said. “We don’t have the stuff for cleaning, the headphones and calculators, but their basic items as far as crayons, crayon box, the notebooks, the folders. The high school asks for binders. It’s the basic general school supplies.”
Foster believes parents will benefit greatly from taking part in the backpack distribution.
“I’m hoping by us providing this service to our community, we can relieve some strife on families. It doesn’t crop off every single item on the list, but it will cross off 80 or 90 percent of what schools are asking for,” she said. “We can eliminate some of that financial burden on families. On top of that, you have enrollment fees. On top of that, you have new school shoes, new clothes. There’s a lot of expenses that come with children starting to go back to school, and we just want to make sure each child goes to school confident, prepared, and we’re able to help them in making sure our kids are going prepared to school.”
For those who cannot make this week’s distribution, Foster said those families can be put in touch with other local agencies such as United Way and Bright Futures who may still have supplies and backpacks.
“They can still contact us, and we’ll try to connect them those resources in our own community to make sure their child has what they need for school,” she said.
Foster said the backpack distribution fits neatly into LACF’s mission.
“As with anything, we try to help our children with different events throughout the year making sure we have vaccines available, we have a flexible schedule for parents, we have the backpacks, our holiday events,” she said. “I think it’s important not only to protect, but to provide a safety net for the future of our children. They are our future, and it’s really important they have the resources they need to be successful and confident in going to school.”
As with anything, when a child goes to school, first impressions are key, and Foster said for many children, that impression starts on day one of the school year.
“The first day of school is so important to a child,” she said. “It might impact them socially. It might impact their confidence level, and we don’t want anybody to feel that way. If we can prevent it, we definitely want to be a resource to those families and to children.”
Those wanting more information about this week’s backpack distribution can call LACF at 620-655-7177.
“We’ll have staff at the Activity Center who will take care of elementary school kids,” Foster said. “We’ll also be at LHS to take care of our high school kids.”
With a limited amount of backpacks available, Foster advises parents to come earlier in the week.
“It’s first come, first serve, and we want to make sure if you need it, you are able to receive one,” she said. “For some reason you miss it, still call us, and we can connect you to the correct agency to help you if we are able to provide one for you.”